31 July, 2007

Music As Weapon?

Although I have posted a few items already, I thought it might be time to contribute something other than quotations or accounts of my latest most-favorite recording. So, to begin: what's the deal with this blog, and why is music a weapon?

Since the late-nineties, I have been fascinated by the idea of political music, and since the early-oughts have dedicated much of my time to the topic. Many hours have been spent thinking about the numerous problems that arise from the combination of (classical) music and politics/activism, and what to do about it. Can these be effectively combined? If so, how?

In pursuing answers to my questions, I have composed a number of works that could be considered political on some level. I also founded and run an ensemble, which is dedicated to the exploration of these questions. Lastly, and most recently, I am writing my doctoral thesis on the topic. With all of these elements in play, I feel that I am getting closer to an answer—although certainly not the answer—and intend to post to that effect on this blog.

The title of the blog comes from the 1934 Workers' Songbook, which states in its foreword: "Music is a Weapon in the Class Struggle." This saying served as justification/motivation for members of the allegedly failed Composers' Collective [Copland, Seeger, Siegmeister, et al.], and a number of other [Eisler, Wolpe, Dessau] young, left-leaning, fellow-traveling, communist-with-a-little-c composers.

From what one reads, these folks really believed—at least for a time—that music could be a weapon for social change, and composed their music accordingly. Do I agree? We'll get to that.

30 July, 2007

Favorite Obsession: July 24-30

Henri Dutilleux: Symphonie No. 1
Orchestra National de Lyon, Serge Baudo, coductor
(Harmonia Mundi)

Variations on the Death of Trotsky

"Artistic creation has its own laws--even when it consciously serves a social movement. Truly intellectual creation is incompatible with lies, hypocrisy, and the spirit of conformity. Art can become a strong ally of revolution only insofar as it remains faithful to itself."

Leon Trotksy, letter to the editors of the Partisan Review, 1938

23 July, 2007

Favorite Obsession: July 17-23

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum: In Glorious Times (2007)
(The End)

22 July, 2007

Weapons of Privilege

"You were born a white man in mid-twentieth century industrial America. You came into the world armed to the teeth with an arsenal of weapons. The weapons of privilege: racial privilege, sexual privilege, economic privilege. If you wanna be a pacifist it's not just giving up guns, and knives, and clubs, and fists, and angry words. But giving up the weapons of privilege and going into the world completely disarmed. Try that!"

U. Utah Philips, Weapons of Privilege

16 July, 2007

Favorite Obsession: July 9-16

Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10
Ostankino Large Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Fedoseyev, conductor.
(Moscow Studio Archive)